Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

It has already been widely reported that music publisher Ludlow Music has threatened copyright litigation against JibJab for their animation "This Land" which uses Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land." Corante, Boing Boing and NPR report that the kids like JibJab. Wendy Seltzer makes an interesting point that when Congress passed the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, they said it was "for the children." Wendy says, "It's worth remembering, again, that artists and copyright holders aren't always the same people."


So now kids will remember the JibJab version of a "classic", never even knowing that there is another version. Not that I care though. The other version is pretty propogandistic in nature, and as far as I can tell neither of the two have any real value, but there is very good, understandable reason for the copyright owners to be worried.

It would be nice of course if JibJab offered some real atrribution. Woody Gunthries name only flashes by in a second in the intro though. It's interesting that the JibJab copyright symbol is displayed much longer.

This begs the question... why should JibJab be able to copyright something and then people be up in arms because the people who have copyrighted the material JibJab used want to enforce their own copyright? I mean, let's face it. The popularity of this JibJab version relies soley on the popularity of the Woody Gunthry song.

If they are going to be against copyrighting, why not make their own works free for the taking as well?

Copyright is an important protection to keep others from profiting from your IP. To the extent jibjab profited from their derivative work they should owe at least mechanical-rights royalties (or whatever) for producing a quasi-cover version of the original. By the current narrow reading of fair-use parody, jib-jab is infringing on the original work, but I consider the other factors involved with fair-use, eg. public commentary, to weigh in its factor. Certainly this is a dream test case for how far fair-use can be extended.

"and as far as I can tell neither of the two have any real value"

You are evidentally lacking any historical understanding of the 20th century. jeez. What's next on your hit-list, The Grapes of Wrath?

And as for jibjab's work, it is a brilliantly executed, even-handed politico-social commentary of the history we are living right now.

I thought the JibJab thing was hilarious, even handed, and very relevant. Parodies are protected under free speach here in the US. I think this qualifies. Although it isn't uncommon for copyright holders to sue creators of parody works.

The original manuscript for "This Land ..." is dated 1940. The copyright term at that time was 26 years, renewable once. So the song would have been in the public domain in 1992, right? And Sony Bono's law was 1998. How is this song even still under copyright? Is this a bluff by the "copyright owners," who don't think JibJab would finance a legal defense and go through the discovery process that could pull the rug out from under their claims? And another thing: sound recordings of songs were not protected by federal copyright until 1972. Maybe they should have just juse Guthrie's original recording as the backing, since it's has always been in the public domain (ignoring some state and common law protection).

A ridiculous situation. Who gets rich? You know who.

Bah... the age of the dinosaurs have passed.

This being said, I very much enjoyed this parody.

Parody has been consistantly protected against copyright violation suits in court. There is no reason to think this will go otherwise. Nevertheless, I think it is sad that any artist has to think twice before deriving from another source for fear of retaliation by the original artist's kids, grandkids, or greatgrandkids, an intelectual property magnate, or a corporation that is indefinitely removed from the original artist. Tunes, stories, characters and cultural phenomena should not remain commodities past the life of their creator. Intelectual property should belong only to the intelect that creates it.

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